THERE are some athletes who seem like they’re really not enjoying their job, and there’s others who quite obviously can’t believe their luck that they have the opportunity to do sport for a living. 

Rab Wardell, it was clear to see, was in the latter category. 

The 37-year-old had been a bike rider for over two decades but in an extremely unusual career timeline, only turned professional this year. 

It’s why the mountain biker’s death earlier this week is so especially sad; he was at the peak of his powers yet now will never know how far he could have gone in the sport. 

I wouldn’t claim to be that familiar with Wardell the person; our paths crossed when we were both part of Team Scotland at the 2006 Commonwealth Games but despite not knowing him particularly well, I have long followed his career because he always seemed like he was just having that bit more fun than anyone else. 

Wardell documented his career online and despite sport, inevitably, having its fair share of downs, Wardell always seemed to be able to find the positive side. 
There are Scottish cyclists who have achieved more in terms of elite-level success than Wardell; his partner, Katie Archibald is one, as well as the likes of Chris Hoy and David Millar. 

These top-level riders are, of course, important but in so many ways, it’s people like Wardell who actually have a greater impact on the sport, particularly at a micro level. 

Since his death, so many people have told their stories of how his enthusiasm for the sport was infectious, and had infected them. That’s exactly why I followed his career from afar; because the way he talked about cycling was just so compelling. 

It’s vital to any sport to have athletes who can succeed at the very highest level, but it’s even more important to have athletes like Wardell who bring people into the sport and helped them grow to love it like he did. 

There are actually, in my experience anyway, far fewer of them than there are Olympians. 

It’s easy to find people who recall a time when Wardell helped or encouraged them, or their kid, within cycling, whatever the discipline, and it would be difficult to come across anyone who personally touched quite so many people in the sport as Wardell clearly did. 

Competitive sport is stressful and maddening and onerous in so many ways but in following Wardell’s career from a distance, it seemed he felt few of these frustrations.

I’m sure he did at times, but he rarely showed it. There are very few athletes who made reading about or watching bike racing quite as interesting as he managed to, particularly when he tried eye-catching challenges like cycling the West Highland Way, for which he set a record time of just under nine and a half hours in 2020. 

Wardell’s death is the third tragic loss for the Scottish cycling community in recent months following the death of international rider John Paul in March and Richard Moore, the renowned journalist, in the same month. 

It has been an unfathomably sad time for the sport in what has been, ironically, one of its most successful periods in recent memory in terms of success. 

The tributes paid to Wardell are a mark of the man he clearly was; there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of people who have made known how much they liked and respected the 37-year-old. 

His death is such a sad loss but if his life taught us anything, it’s that sport is there to be enjoyed. 

We are now counting the days until Serena Williams hangs up her racket. 

It is fitting that her final competitive appearance will be in New York, where she won her first major title a remarkable 23 years ago. 

Her current form though, including a thumping from Emma Raducanu, suggests she is now so far from her best that anything more than a win or two in the early rounds would be a triumph. 

What’s been fairly obvious, though, is that Williams, until this point at least, isn’t enjoying her farewell. 

Following her defeat to Raducanu, she rushed off court without even doing a post-match interview and she is not exactly soaking up the adulation from the crowds who know that her final tennis match is now imminent. 

There was always the dream that Williams could return in New York, win one more grand slam title to equal the 24 that Margaret Court holds and then waltz off into the sunset. 

It’s now obvious, even to herself, that’s not going to happen. 

Her level is so far from that which it needs to be in order to be competitive with the very best in the world that she is going to struggle to beat anyone inside the world’s top 100. 

However her final match pans out, it should not, and almost certainly will not, tarnish her legacy.  

But despite the fact that defeat is almost certainly how she’s going to end her career, there are different manners of defeat and it will be impossibly difficult to watch Williams’ career end in a whimper rather than a bang. 

It remains to be seen quite how much tennis we will get to see Williams play in her final tournament. 

But however it ends, let’s hope she does not go out without a fight.